• Jacob Maxwell

The Exact Correct Way

On the floor of my room. I stared up at the line drawing on my angled attic wall. The drawing was dimly lit by scant traces of morning light which barely reached the corner, but the writing on the backside of the card stock was still faintly visible. With my situational judgement test finished, it felt like the cards of my veterinary school application had been dealt. In theory, the personal background interview was the falling action of this plot line I’d been planning for nine years. With full-time work still weeks away due to the lockdown, this time - between the judgement test and the interview - has been a disorienting combination of should have and what if.

On a Northern Ontario afternoon in 2014, I faced a smaller challenge. Having recently started riding lessons, I knew the basics of horse grooming and tacking up. The off-the-track thoroughbred I was working with that day was wary of my hands in her face as I tried to put on her bridle. As she raised her head out of my reach, both my grip on the bridle and my confidence quickly loosened. After several minutes of struggle, my coach swooped in. I lamented that I couldn’t remember ‘the exact correct way’ to effortlessly slip on the bridle. ‘There isn’t one,’ my coach responded. Every horse, situation, bridle, and human is different, and what this mare needed more than an expert was a calm and confident person who, in their own way, could undo past experience and reassure her that bridles aren’t synonymous with pain.

I still have a week. There’s plenty of time to prepare for my interview in ‘the exact correct way.’ I could type out answers, rehearse polished versions of the truth in the mirror, and over analyze every aspect of my past in an attempt to embody the perfect applicant. My riding coach taught me better.

Whether you’re putting a bridle on a frightened horse, speaking your truth to people who love you, or concluding a decade of ambition with a twenty minute conversation, the only way you can do it best is to do it your way. Over the next week, I’ll think, I’ll reflect, I’ll meditate, and I’ll plan, but I won’t bend. Be it good or bad, the only thing I’m bringing to that interview is me.

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